Friday, November 28, 2008

Frugality Index: Toronto Life Versus New York Magazine

New York, a city of plutocrats, trust-fund kids and $1-million studio apartments. A city where billionaires hire millionaries to be their butlers and servants, and where money, until recently, splashed about like tap water.

Toronto is certainly no stranger to wealthy enclaves, but $1-million will still get you a whole damn house and our plutocrat population can be counted on one hand, with several leftover fingers. Thus, a penny-pinching contest between these two cities would appear to be a no-brainer. The problem, until recently, was proving it.

Good news. The cover of the November 10, 2008 issue of (New York Magazine) ($3.99 at newsstand) promises “Live Well, Spend Less” while the November 2008 cover of (Toronto Life) ($4.95 at newsstand) features a guide entitled “Look Rich (Even If You Feel Poor).” Prepare yourself for some cheap thrills as we compare salient economic benchmarks from these two publications.

Toronto Life: For short-term auto jollies, head to ASG Exotic and Luxury car rentals, where rocket-ready six-speed Porsche 911 Carreras ($550) await open roads. For longer-term indulgences, The Private Collection allows for fractional ownership at an annual cost of $31,000, plus $5,000 initiation fee. That nabs 40 to 60 driving days, depending on dates and models; rides include a 007-worthy Aston Martin DB9 and a Lamborghini Gallardo— a car that begs for endless laps of Yorkville, subtly broadcasting “I’m a human penis!” to the world.

New York Magazine: Okay, a taxi is (sometimes) faster, (sometimes) cleaner, and (sometimes) safer than the subway, but a cab is never more economical. If you commute to work from the Upper West Side to midtown, say, you’ll spend around $12 each way (including tip) or $24 per day. Multiply that by 250 or so work days a year, and your annual transportation outlay—without a single weekend ride—comes to $6,000. At $2 per ride twice a day, the subway will set you back just $4 per day, or $1,000 per year. That’s a $5,000 savings. The next time you’re tempted to hop a cab, try whispering this to yourself: Prosperity now.

Toronto Life: If the old boys from UCC don’t like the cut of your jib, stick it to them by commanding the waters in a skippered yacht. Cruise the harbour, islands and shores of Lake Ontario in the Teddy Graham, a 38-foot Hunter sailing yacht from Sailing for You (packages from $450), complete with skipper, drinks, meals, beds, and an interior so rich in teak, it would make a Danish furniture designer jealous.

New York Magazine: Take the free water taxi to the Red Hook Ikea.
And then skip Ikea. Hang out on the esplanade for an hour or two, then water-taxi back.

Toronto Life: A full-time cook may not be in the cards in the near (or far) future, but inner gourmets can be at least temporarily satisfied with a private meal by a famous chef. Even busy Marc Thuet has been known to make house calls, with cooking utensils and organic ingredients in tow ($60–$200 per person). Thuet loves to create exotic tasting menus using rare and seasonal ingredients—think white Alba truffles and wild game tastings of Scottish grouse and mallard duck—but he’ll just as happily prepare a meal for Thanksgiving celebrations, or some freshly caught Nova Scotia lobster for a homesick East Coast transplant.

New York Magazine: Steak for Two 
For many red-meat aficionados, an $85 Peter Luger porterhouse for two can’t be beat. Call it apples to oranges, but we’ll take the General Greene ’s (229 Dekalb Ave., nr. Clermont Ave., Ft. Greene; 718-225-1510) remarkably beefy Niman Ranch flap steak (a seldom seen but up-and-coming cut) any day. In fact, at $12 apiece, we’ll take two.

Toronto Life: Canoe—140 seats, regional Canadian cuisine, dazzling 54th-floor views and similarly lofty menu prices—can be had for a mere $14,000 minimum tab on Saturday (Sunday is half-price, $7,000; a private sommelier is extra). While the elegant, modern space isn’t exactly shabby, guests often customize it: for a wedding, antique bird cages were filled with cupcakes; another affair featured million-dollar diamond displays and accompanying armed guards. Go-for-broke guests even bring in their own entertainment, including Celtic dancers and Chinese dragon dancers.

New York Magazine: Regular Slice. 
New York’s favorite slice now goes for the eyebrow-raising price of $4. But that slice, found at the Midwood pizza mecca Di Fara, is meticulously hand-formed, and distinguished by a contrapuntal cheese medley. A plain old slice at 99¢ Fresh Pizza (151 E. 43rd St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-922-0257) makes a quick and satisfying lunch, if not exactly a life-altering gastronomic experience. With tax, it’s $1.07.

Toronto Life: Mobile Spa Toronto specializes in primping parties, from stagettes to teen birthdays. À la carte house call services include waxing ($15–$60), makeup application ($60), mani-pedi ($60), therapeutic massage ($100) and facials ($75). There’s a minimum in-home charge of $120 for an aesthetician and $100 for a registered massage therapist with at least two spa professionals booked per visit. Hygiene freaks, take note: all implements—scissors, tweezers, files—are individually wrapped and opened in front of you.

New York Magazine: Paint Your Own Damn Nails. A mani-pedi may seem like a quick, cheap form of pampering, but a biweekly treatment at Rescue Beauty Lounge, say, will set you back $2,080 annually. Owner and author Ji Baek graciously offers tips for stay-at-home beautifiers.

Toronto Life: Marco Enterprises co-founders Deborah Zwicker and Marlee Novak have been in the luxury property management biz for 10 years and manage more than 80 ogle-worthy mansions across the city, stocked with such Entourage essentials as indoor pools, tennis courts and private movie theatres. Clients tend toward the famous and fabulous (Bono, Hilary Swank and John Travolta have stayed in furnished homes on such stylish streets as the Bridle Path, Roxborough and Hazelton), but a Hollywood pedigree is not required—just an ability to afford the $10,000 to $50,000 monthly payments. One month minimum rental. 416-410-4123,

New York Magazine: Whittle Down Your Mortgage. Nicole and Anthony (who asked us not to use their full names) live on the Upper West Side in a two-bedroom they bought for under $800,000 in 2003. They want to lower their monthly nut, and Melissa Cohn, of the Manhattan Mortgage Company, offered her advice.

Toronto Life: It’s tough to hold a fabulous dinner party when the guests outnumber the chairs. For a Versailles-in-the-Don-Valley feel, Kennedy Galleries offers a suitably opulent selection of traditional furnishings ($200 a week and up). For parties more P. Diddy than King Louis, Contemporary Furniture Rentals has a dizzying array of modern chairs, including Philippe Starck’s translucent Ghost chair (call for prices).

New York Magazine: Restoring a Dresser.
All Furniture Services.
They’ll send a workman to your home to restore your beat-up chest of drawers for $145 to $275—and they’ll try to do it with nontoxic chemicals so you don’t have to air it out afterward.